Category Archives: Gaming

Video Games, RPGs like D&D, Other MMOs

Introducing the FFXIV Heavensward Story Summary

I’m happy to announce that just in time for the new Final Fantasy XIV expansion Stormblood, I have managed to put together a solid story summary for the story of Heavensward.  While the “patch storylines” aren’t finished yet – namely because I haven’t played through those extensions to the Main Scenario yet – the main storyline of the expansion is now available to read here.

I don’t have a set date for when those remaining stories will be up mostly because I’m debating waiting until Stormblood is released to play through those patches since when Heavensward was released the 2.X patch story rewards were altered to give equipment to prevent having to grind item levels to progress to the next major step and since my current ilevel is sitting around 203 at the moment, and you need 230 to get through all the dungeons involved in the quests…  Yeah, I might just wait and see if I can make this a bit easier on myself.  If someone who is more active in the news for Final Fantasy XIV knows one way or the other if they plan on doing this again, do please let me know.

Otherwise, I’ll just keep on my current mission of “Get all Classes/Jobs to Level 30 then to Level 50” until Stormblood arrives.

EDIT: Upon further research, it seems that the Main Scenario Quests for Heavensward will have to be completed in order to access the Stormblood story, but you won’t need to do it to access the Samurai and Red Mage jobs.  So I’m thinking it’s pretty likely for them to include “Catch Up Gear” with the quests like they did with ARR leading into Heavensward.

Mass Effect: A Funeral For a Friend

So I was not even halfway done with my ‘I finished Mass Effect Andromeda’ post (Not the final title, I assure you) when Electronic Arts announced that the Mass Effect property was pretty much dead.  Oh they didn’t use those words.  That would be dumb.  No, they said that Mass Effect – the entire franchise – is being put ‘On Hiatus’.  Which in all honesty means that they’re going to stick it on a shelf until there’s nostalgia dollars to be made from it.  Along with this news, we learned that Bioware Montreal was being gutted and the remaining staff would be support developers for other EA titles such as Battlefront or Project Dylan (the currently unnamed Bioware action game that rumors say is EA’s contender to go head-to-head with Activision’s Destiny series and The Division.)  The only development for Mass Effect: Andromeda moving forward will be bug fixes and multiplayer support.

How did we get here?  I mean, it’s not even been 3 months since the game came out.  Now there will be no DLC, no sequel for the cliffhanger ending, and pretty much an end to the entire Mass Effect idea and setting for the foreseeable future.

Well, I’m sure some people have a very good idea of how this happened.  I mean, the internet backlash was hitting this game before we even got to the release date because of the whole 10 hour preview that some people had.  Mixed that with streaming media so everyone could share in the initial reaction and boom! Great recipe for an instant flame war.  And I’m not going to sit here and hold those people solely responsible.  The game had problems at launch.  I’m not going to argue with that.  The animations could be goofy, there were issues with bugs and the inventory system was just screwy.  I mean, most of this didn’t bother me personally.  Nor did it bother a lot of people I knew personally.  But then again, I was raised on RPGs where “Facial Animation” was changing the position of an eyebrow on a 20×20 pixel head.  I remember it being a big deal when “mouths moving when they have lines” was a big advancement.  So maybe I’m a bit more forgiving of some silly animations.  Ultimately, the game was playable.  It was downright fun.  Right from launch.  The patches fixed issues as they rolled out and the fun got even better.  That’s the way I viewed it all at least.

There’s also the issue of the broken fan base over to make the game more open-world.  Right now “Open World” games are kind of a thing and its started to get some backlash against it.  That isn’t Andromeda’s fault, but it did release right as the genre’s popularity has started to decline instead of at its peak.  Really, I don’t think open world was much of a goal for the game as it was the side effect of the questionable overall design choice: An updated Mass Effect 1.  Everything from the open format of upgrading abilities, to the inventory system and ranked equipment (Ranks I-X just like ME1), and the big open worlds to drive around and explore were all pretty much just yanked from Mass Effect 1 and then peppered with some of the sensibilities of ME2 & 3.  Instead of moving forward from ME3’s gameplay, they went back and tried to revive the stuff that the second and third installments tried to push away from.  And for that reason, I imagine there was a lot of push-back from fans.  While there are some in the Bioware fandom that hold on to the classic Mass Effect as the last time the games were “RPGs” (a sentiment I disagree with. I view RPG as more of a choice of how one approaches and interacts with the game rather than a specific set of mechanics that must be followed) most of the folks I’ve spoken to over the years hold Mass Effect 2 as the pinnacle of the trilogy and many of them cite the choices to move away from things like the Mako sequences on worlds or the painful inventory system.  Going back may have made sense to the developers, especially in light of the emphasis on exploration, but I don’t think it was what a lot of fans wanted.

Speaking of the exploration, I am still gathering that there in lies the big disconnect with expectations vs reality.  Andromeda was set up to be a break off of the original Mass Effect trilogy.  The same setting but a different story, hence why it was never labeled – and Bioware heavily emphasized that it was NOT – Mass Effect 4.  Andromeda was about exploration.  Going to a new place never before seen and trying to establish a home.  This wasn’t the tale of a super-soldier trying to save the Galaxy.  This was just a random team of people who volunteered to travel nearly a millennium away from home and try to set up camp in a barely charted galaxy.  So it was a big step down in the important-ness scale.  Just as epic, but more in a scale way instead of a heroic way.  Because face it, Ryder isn’t a hero.  They’re the kid of an ostracized scientist who had greatness thrust upon them compared to Shepard who was a damn legend before the opening title dropped hence why Shepard was being considered for Spectre Status.  Ryder’s job before having the Pathfinder title dropped on their lap was Recon Specialist.  No rank, no record of glory, no nothing.  Andromeda was about new beginnings.  A theme that runs through out the game and is handled really well.  I just don’t think everybody was on board with a new beginning.

It’s one of those tough calls that you have to deal with as an artist in an entertainment industry.  Especially if your a AAA developer or working with a big movie studio.  You can make great art, but even then if no one is buying what your selling then you are just shooting yourself in the foot.  It’s the cruel reality, and not one that I personally like or support.  Electronic Arts supposedly dropped $40 million on Andromeda (That’s half of CD Projekt Red’s budget for The Witcher 3) to a brand new division of Bioware set up in Montreal to try and win back the fans that Bioware HQ in Edmonton put at risk with Mass Effect 3’s ending backlash.  They decided to dive back into the well and play it safe by retreading ground established by Mass Effect 1.  They developed a story that was easy for new comers and series veterans to get into with a brilliantly handled themes of exploring the unknown and establishing a new beginning.  They crafted a story that wrapped up both the ‘new beginning’ as well solved the primary conflict without giving everything away so fans could theorize and have something to look forward to in the future.  It created a villain with an interesting motivation (The Kett) and a mystery to ponder on without concrete answers (The Remnant). It ended the game with solving the issue of finding a home but gave a cliffhanger as to what will come next.

Mass Effect Andromeda was a good game overall.  A good game that stumbled at the starting line and it cost them big.  I honestly worry about Bioware moving forward.  After this, ME3’s ending, and The Old Republic, I imagine EA’s patience may be wearing thin.  Consumers on the other hand have higher expectations of Bioware than ever.  Things could be rough going forward for the Canadian RPG powerhouse.

Switching On To The Switch

So last Friday, I got my grubby mitts on the new Nintendo console, the Switch.  I didn’t camp out or anything like I did with the Wii.  After having that experience once, I am quite satisfied with just pre-ordering off of a website and waiting for the mail man.  I’m getting old. I ain’t a whipper snapper no more.

Honestly what confused me more so was that people asked IF I was going to get a Switch.  As if there would be some reason I wouldn’t?  I guess people just assume when they see my Wii and Wii U that I might have felt burned by Nintendo in the past with these “dreadful” systems.  Which only makes me laugh.  I have NEVER been dissatisfied with a Nintendo console.  Not once.  Heck, I thought the Virtual Boy was pretty awesome when it first came out.  I still think it was one of the most forward thinking consoles ever made along with the Dreamcast.  Go back and look at the Virtual Boy and tell me that thing doesn’t look like the equivalent of the Game & Watch devices for the modern Vive or Gear headsets.  Nintendo systems are always kind of this weird nostalgia trip anyway.  When they were current both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube were mocked for having small game selections that trended toward “casual” or “kiddy” games unlike the then rising star Playstation & Playstation 2. Nowadays?  People pine for the days of the N64 or ‘Cube.  People sing their praises now that they’ve passed into the realms of nostalgia.  But hey, I still loved those consoles when they were current.  My PSX was used for Final Fantasy.  Everything else? Nintendo 64.

So when people point out things like the weird gimmicks or the small launch selection, I can’t help but shrug.  The Switch is no exception.  It looked fun as hell and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

The Console

The Switch itself is surprisingly compact.  Even with the JoyCons attached to the side of it.  It actually kind reminds me of a skinny Game Gear in that sense but with a bigger screen (Maybe a bit longer battery life).  It’s definitely not like the 3DS where I can just stick it in my pocket but it would easily fit in a backpack, messenger bag, or purse.  The stand on the back is NOT as flimsy as I’ve seen people complaining about, at least not in my experience.  I’ve used it in the kickstand configuration a few times and the only time I had trouble keeping it standing up was when I tried to do it on a non-solid surface like a sofa cushion or the bed.  The kickstand set up is probably my favorite configuration outside of putting it on the TV so far.  The JoyCons connect wirelessly so you can just have your hands in any position you want while playing.  I was at my sister-in-law’s hookah lounge/tea shop/gaming emporium (Check out the Lair of Abraxas if your ever in the Denver Metro area. #Plug.) with the Switch set up on the table and my hands crossed underneath and just playing away without a concern in total comfort.  It’s hard to explain why but something about the fact that the JoyCons fit in your hand and are connected to nothing just gives you a lot of freedom to play comfortably.

The biggest technical hurdle I’ve had so far was honestly getting my TV to display a decent picture, and that’s really more so the TV’s fault than the Switch so I can’t complain too much.  But if the saturation or brightness of the image seems too much or the anti-aliasing seems choppy on your TV, you might want to play around with the settings some.  For me, it turns out that Gaming Mode on our TV isn’t so good for gaming, but HDR+ mode makes the games look great.  So you might just need to fiddle in the settings until you find one that looks good for you.

The JoyCons

These things were my biggest worry when it came to the Switch.  I mean, they LOOK tiny right?  And they are.  Kind of.  My hands can fit around them easily enough that I can play without any discomfort or crab claw hands.  The buttons are about the size of the ones on a 3DS so if you don’t have an issue there, you won’t here.  I won’t really know what to say about them in terms of gameplay until probably next month when I pick up Mario Kart 8 Director’s Cut or whatever they’re calling it, but I don’t anticipate too many issues.  Regardless, I did get a Pro Controller to use just in case.

However, one thing that was both cool and weird at the same time is actually feeling the HD Rumble do its thing for the first time.  While I didn’t bother with 1-2-Switch, there are a few moments in Zelda that use it and its just kind of neat.  Feeling the water run down a stalagtite before dripping down as you watch it on screen is definitely a nice touch of immersion.  I’ll be curious to see how developers will use it moving forward.

The Games

I only grabbed two games at Launch: Zelda and I Am Setsuna, and over the weekend I only really played Zelda.  I was tempted to go for Bomberman as well, because I remember playing the heck out of BomberMan 64 back in the day, but I felt it was one of those wait and sees.  Meanwhile, the next Zelda game and a retro send up to Chrono Trigger style RPG?  Heck yes I will be playing those.

Zelda is gorgeous and pretty much hits all the right notes.  The gleaming reviews are everywhere so I don’t think I need to sell you on the game, but I will touch on the highlights for me:

  • Exploring:  In what must be a send up to the original NES games, Breath of the Wild has minimal if any handholding when it comes to things.  How do I get to that shrine in the icy area without freezing?  Well, I picked up some peppers that said they could keep me warm.  Cook those up with some apples for a spicy stew and viola! I can make my way up to the shrine.  Or rolling a rock down a hill just to see it crush a bokoblin camp.
  • Collectibles: Three primary things to run around and find while you play (so far).  Korok Nuts that you can trade to increase your inventory, Spirit Orbs from Shrines to increase your Heart or Stamina meters, and Outfits that make Link fashionable and also give bonuses to stuff like Climb speed or Sneaking.
  • Shrines:  These are little mini dungeons that usually just puzzles with maybe a few enemies. Maybe.  But the puzzles have been SO FUN so far.  Easily my favorite part. I stumbled upon a later game dungeon fairly early by accident and it had a puzzle where you had to burn some vines to release a giant ball that you had to push a button at the right time to send it flying across the room to a spinning platform that you need to Stop Time on with your Stasis magic so the ball will roll and open the door.  That’s to open ONE DOOR in the Shrine.  LOVED IT!
  • The World is Huge.  It just is.  I was skeptical when I heard that Breath of the Wild was going to be on-par with Xenoblade Chronicles X in terms of the map size but uh…  I’m a believer.  Luckily there’s a quick travel system utilizing the Shrines and Towers and a few other points that you can zip around with.
  • The Game is that right level of hard.  Some people have been calling this the Dark Souls of Zelda.  I can see where they’re coming from but I don’t think this is quite that bad.  You will probably die a lot, yes.  But the game autosaves quite frequently to help prevent too much lost time and it’s never really unfair with it unless you have seriously wandered into a place where you are squaring off against much tougher opponents.  Then just use the quick travel system after you reload your autosave to skidaddle out (or be like me and just die over and over trying to outrun the crazy killer robot that’s twice as fast as me).  There’s no real punishment for dying beyond maybe having to replay a bit of an area, but it seems to remember things like what chests you looted already and what not, so the repetition is never terrible and it gives you a chance to try new strategies.

So that’s my early impressions of playing with the Nintendo Switch over the weekend.  Once I get an actual multiplayer game, I’ll probably post my Friend Code somewhere so you can friend request me or something.

FFXV: Vry vs The Pit of Eos Theory

0

In case you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, there’s a bit of a hot topic spinning around in fan circles about the latest installment of the series, Final Fantasy XV.  It pertains to the bonus dungeon, Pitioss Ruins, that can be found after the game is complete by taking your flying car over the mountains and landing on a pain in the ass small strip of land.  From there you run up the hill and after the sun goes down you can enter the Ruins which has less to do with the rest of the game and more in common with games like VVVVVVVV or I Want To Be The Boshy joining forces with some insidious Little Big Planet levels.  Precision jumps, instant death spikes, tons of bottomless pits, and plenty of puzzles.  It’s a frustrating and yet suprisingly entertaining dungeon that had me less annoyed with each death and more so piecing together a solution or strategy.

However, the current “theory” or simply fan wank making the rounds right now is that this dungeon holds the key to understanding the entire game’s backstory and motivations for the villains.

Right…

To break it down simply, it posits that Ifrit, the second to last boss of the game, broke free of Titan’s imprisonment, ventured into the Underworld, traversed the Doomtrain to reach the afterlife, and freed the Goddess Eos who was locked away by the Astrals because she was pregnant with twin demi-god children (noted by the item the Genji Glove found in the statues belly button. Genji roughly translating to ‘Two Beginnings’.)  These twin children would be the founding members of the House of Lucis, possibly Ardyn and Izunia (The Izunia thing is a WHOLE other rant), and would eventually give rise to Noctis. (If you want more detail, there is a great video by Final Fantasy Peasant that breaks the whole thing down here. It’s also where I got the lovely image at the top.)

At first glance, it’s a great idea.  It explains why Ifrit turned against the other Astrals, Ardyn’s desire for revenge, why only the lineage of Lucis can use the Ring of the Lucii, and their connection to the Crystal.  Damn. What a great theory.  Boy is it clever.

I have a few problems with it though. (Shocker.)

A lot of the theory seems to be based heavily on Greek Mythology.  No surprise there. The game itself draws heavily on Greek Mythology to tell its story especially when it comes to names and themes.  However, the Pitioss Ruins theory goes beyond this and simply assumes at face value that if X happened with equivalent characters in the Greek myth, then the equivalent must be true in Final Fantasy XV.  So things like “Eos was imprisoned for loving a mortal and having half-god children” is based solely on the idea that “It’s how an Olympian God would react” with no basis whatsoever in the mythology or story of Final Fantasy XV.  There is zero evidence to back up the idea that the Astrals would be angry by this.  This is just slapping in frog DNA to fill in the holes of your dino DNA and saying that it was always intended to be like that.

Secondly, the theory throws in concepts that are wholly foreign to the game as if they were just matter of fact things.  For instance, the theory states quite plainly that Ifrit descended to the Underworld to find the Goddess Eos by riding Doomtrain.  Okay.  One, there is no “Underworld” ever mentioned in the game at any point as part of their mythology.  Two, no where is the contraption in the Ruins called Doomtrain nor is the concept of Doomtrain ever mentioned let alone as the ‘Sole means of reaching the afterlife’ in Final Fantasy XV.  This description from Doomtrain comes from other games, which is a bad practice since in no other Final Fantasy game is Bahamut a giant dude in a suit of dragon armor.

Finally, the Goddess Eos?  The Goddess that is central to this entire theory?  Not in the game.  She’s not.  Eos is the name of the world that the game takes place on.  Beyond that it’s even more fan theory based on random comments made by developers.  That the character in the logo is the ‘most important goddess’ despite never having a name and only appearing in the logo and one painting at the beginning (Oh, and after you beat the game it shows quite plainly who that sleeping figure is supposed to be, and she ain’t Eos.) So if there’s a super important goddess, and the world is called Eos, then that must be the goddess Eos right?  Sure, why not.  Except that nowhere is that backed up in the game.  We know who all six Astrals are.  We know that there were gods who left after creating the world and the Astrals but were never named.  So how do we know this is a goddess?  Well, mostly because this used to be based on the Fabula Nova Crystallis and in that there was a super important goddess named ‘Etro’ who was trapped in the ‘Unseen World’ (World of the Dead, Underworld.)  But all of that lore was scrapped and only used as a template for ideas (Bhunivelze = Unknown Creator, Fal’Cie = Astrals, l’Cie = Lucii.)

So this theory is built on another theory and uses more theories to fill in the gaps.  What’s actually canon to the game?  That there’s a dungeon called of the Pitioss Ruins and there’s some statues in it one of which looks like Ifrit. That’s about it.

But what’s the problem, Vry? I hear you ask.  It’s just a harmless fan theory, right?  Well, yea and no.  There are plenty of folks who are seeing this theory and turning around and shouting F#%& TABATA AND SQUARE ENIX FOR RUINING THIS GENIUS PLOT going along with the idea that if this had stayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII or that if Nomura had stayed on the project that this plot would have become fully fleshed out in the unknowable amount of time it would have taken to get finished (Don’t get me wrong, I like Nomura alright but the man is a hardcore creative and needs to some serious reining in if you want to put him in charge of a project or else he’ll just keep coming up with new ideas and trying to work them in).

So this theory is now being used as ‘Proof’ against the developers, and that’s where I felt like I should step up and use my corner of the web to try and remind folks that this is just a theory and one based on a LOT of conjecture.  It explains a lot, but that’s fairly easy to do when you construct the entire argument from random bits and pieces of unrelated material.  You can just as convincingly say that Eos was a Titan in Greek Mythology and Titan is an Astral, so Eos might be the mother of Titan as well. Which would make Noctis and Titan related, which would explain why they were mentally linked and the first Astral that Noctis forged a covenant with.  See! It all fits! It must be true!  Other than I pulled it out of my rump.

Fan Theories are great.  But they are theories.  They are not canon.  They are not backdoors into the game developers’ minds. Need I bring the Game Theorists’ “Sans is Ness” Undertale/Earthbound theory?  Great theory. So not canon.

But then why all the mysteries around the backstory of FFXV?  I don’t know.  Maybe because a lot of it wasn’t vitally important to the immediate situation.  My own theory on that (HA!) is that it might be a leftover concept from the Versus XIII days when the game was described as portrayed the affairs of gods through the eyes of a mortal.  Like war between the Astrals but only the given context of what a mere mortal would see or understand.  Do I know for certain?  Heck no.  But hey…  it fits, doesn’t it?

Diving into Dream Drop Distance

kingdom-hearts-3d-dream-drop-distance-full-1011142

So lately, I’ve been playing a lot of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD as part of the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection (And that’s a mouthful.) I tried to play it before on the 3DS but something about the strange and unfamiliar mechanics (I had never played Birth By Sleep when I tried it so the Command Board was weird, plus the Dream Eaters) and the smaller screen between the controls seem to just give me an all around hard time getting into the game. So I figured that now I’ve solved some of those issues I could try it again on my TV.  Turns out, it works a lot better.

Learning the Game

I figured since Dream Drop Distance introduces a bunch of weird mechanics that I’d share some tips that I’ve kind of figured out over the course of playing to make it easier.  The first of which would have to be the return of the Command Board.  A familiar installment to those who played through Birth by Sleep on the PSP or as part of the II.5 collection, the Command Board is pretty much all of your special attacks and moves be they special keyblade attacks or spells.  They each have a separate cooldown that is affected by your Attack or Magic Haste stat.  You start with a few slots but the list will expand as you continue through the game. The command board is your bread & butter in combat.  I generally only do normal attacks once I’ve put most of my attack commands on cooldown to fill the gap.  They do WAY more damage and have more Area damage options that your normal attacks. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what attacks work better for your playstyle.  I tend to favor the “dive” attacks because they do area damage which is good for clearing out clusters of enemies which is very helpful when grinding.

The second big mechanic to keep in mind is the Dream Eaters.  Much like Pokemon Amie meets Nintendogs, you create these little spirits and can groom and pet them to your hearts content.  But why you would want to do so was confusing to me for a long time.  See, these little guys are more important than just being your fill in party members since Donald & Goofy are off doing their own thing during the adventure.  These little guys also give you your abilities.  Abilities being things like ‘Attack Haste’ or ‘Second Chance’ or ‘Magic Boost’.  How you get these is from a Dream Eaters’ ability link grid.  You spend Link Points to unlock nodes on the grid that grant Abilities or Commands.  And you get Link Points from leveling your Dream Eaters in combat, playing minigames or yes, petting them.  Petting them is especially important because petting or poking them in certain places can change their ‘Disposition’ (aka what attacks they use in combat) and a new disposition can unlock extra paths on the Link Grid (It’s the only way to 100% their grids.)

The other thing about Dream Eater abilities is which are permanent and which only apply when the Dream Eater is in your party.  Essentially ‘Stat Abilities’ (The blue ones on the ability screen, or the ones with the dream eater logo on the grid) only apply when that Dream Eater is in your party.  The ‘Support Abilities’ (Red abilities or Red Orbs on grid), ‘Spirit Abilities’ (Purple Abilities or Purple Orbs on Grid) and any commands (Wizard Hat & Key icons) you got are permanently unlocked for both Sora and Riku.

Flowmotion is the final mechanic and I don’t think I can really do it justice in text.  It essentially allows you to jump massive distances, up walls, and perform new attacks.  It takes get some used to but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to reach new areas, treasure chests, and skip a bunch of tedious jumping.  Don’t worry if you can’t get the hang of it though.  I’ve yet to encounter anything that you can’t get through normal jumping (or high jumping.)  There’s even some stuff like a friendly animal that you can ride on to reach areas in some worlds.  So you don’t NEED flowmotion, but it can make things easier/quicker.

The Pieces Fall Together

The other thing I’m really enjoying about Dream Drop Distance is that it is taking the time to finally start piecing the story together from all the various spin offs that the series has had since KH2 came out in preparation of well, the final chapter.  Tying in titles like 358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep and Re:Coded to the current going ons with Riku & Sora really helps to make the picture complete and help you to figure out how all of this fits together into a single story.  If you haven’t played one of the games, or you can’t remember, you’ll eventually unlock “Chronicles” which are text summaries of the events of each of the games.

However, the story isn’t flawless.  Mostly when it comes down to the individual worlds.  Of the first three ‘movie inspired’ worlds you go to – La Cites des Cloches (Hunchback of Notre Dame), The Grid (Tron: Legacy) and Prankster’s Paradise (Pinnochio) – two of them don’t put a lot of effort to weave Sora or Riku into the narrative of the ongoing plot like many of the other games did.  In fact, in the Grid it feels like our heroes aren’t even there half the time as the game just reenacts random scenes from the movies without context as Sora & Riku stand in the background.  Oh there’s scenes that advance Sora & Riku’s story as well, but they have little to nothing to do with the events of the world’s story.  Usually it involves Young Xehanort showing up with one of his many incarnations to taunt or mysteriously hint at things at our heroes before departing back to parts unknown.  I’m not going to say it’s a game breaker, but damn if it doesn’t just let the air out of any enthusiasm of going to the various worlds.

On that note, I’m not sure Square Enix quite understood the plot of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Because the random aspects they chose to focus on – and they are random.  Like the one scene with Pheobus & Esmerelda’s spontaneous romance with zero development that only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie – seems to imply that the writers were unsure of what the story was about.  Is it about Frollo hating “G–sies” for being ‘Free’?  Or Quasimodo overcoming his crippling fear of going outside not because of his visage but just because Frolo told him not to.  Heck, they have one scene about Frolo looking for the Court of Miracles that explicitly conveys the opposite intention of the original film (He WANTS to crush them ‘one by one’ instead of crushing them all).  It was just a weird world over all and nothing was given context.  It was like reading a cliff notes version of the Disney movie with half the pages missing.  Just weird.

Should You Get It?

If you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan and plan on playing the whenever-it-gets-done KH3?  Definitely.  Unless you already played it on the 3DS, because this version doesn’t add anything.  It removes some non-essential stuff like AR Codes and Photo Taking of the Dream Eaters (there IS a photo mode but it just removes the UI for screen shotting) but this isn’t a “Final Mix” incarnation, just a HD remaster of the graphics and ported to a console.  The follow up in the 2.8 collection, ‘Birth By Sleep 0.2 -A Fragmentary Passage-‘, also picks up literally right at the end of Dream Drop Distance’s Secret Ending, which might be spoilery if you haven’t played Dream Drop yet.

FateStone Development Journal: Planning

rpgmaker1

I’ve been tinkering with some of my work on FateStone again recently and it got me thinking that maybe since I do have this platform, I could share some of my notes and thoughts about working on the game with all of you.

There’s a lot of ways one can go about coming up with an RPG Maker game.  Some folks just dive in and start creating, building as they go, some start with a story they’ve wanted to tell, and others begin with the characters.  These are all valid ways of exploring the creative tools that something like RPG Maker MV offers up.  Me though?  I’m a planner.  Always have been.  I would keep lists and figures of milestones and objectives written down or in my head.  I may not have ever gone as far as full blown theorycrafting in my WoW Raiding days but I did keep a list of drops I needed to work toward to get hit capped (Hit capping for the newer WoW players was a god awful mechanic where you needed to prioritize a now defunct ‘Hit’ stat just so you wouldn’t spend raid fights missing with every attack.)

So when it came to sit down and try to make an actual game, I didn’t open RPG Maker – I opened Google Sheets.  My Google Drive is full of documents and spreadsheets all around creating a basic layout for what the game I want to make will entail.  From how the crafting system will work, to a spreadsheet breakdown of items, crafting components for those items, effects for the items, and naturally the item id.  I’ve done the same work for class skills, which is an impressive list of hundreds of skills for FateStone’s currently planned twenty classes. I mean, I just like to have everything down on paper for easy reference once I begin, regardless if a lot of stuff I’ve been working on is for later ‘phases’ of the development.

Currently, Phase 1 is just planned to only be the single starter city and the quests that take place there in.  That includes a 3-floor dungeon built around the City Sewers and an ancient forgotten temple full of ghosts and skeletons hidden beneath the city, three city districts and the castle where the king lives.  Because of course there’s a castle where the king lives.  There’s a total of 5 recruit-able characters, namely because I wanted there to be some exploration of the ‘morality’ system and have different paths through the prologue based on your decisions. The Positive or “Astral” Path features the ability to recruit the Princess (Bard class) and a Knight and the Negative or “Chaos” path will feature the Rogue and the Mage NPCs.  The others will be eventually recruit-able, but I wanted Phase I to have a full party by the end of the Prologue.

So just there alone that’s seven areas with subzones of buildings, etc. Five NPCs featuring an array of five different classes, not to mention your starting class that brings the total to six. Two branching paths with different quests.  A half dozen or so different monsters of varying difficulty. Then items and shops to put them in.

…THAT is why I tend to go for the planning approach to things.  Just this small prologue has so many different things to keep track of in terms of IDs, variables, values, and so on and so forth.  I like being able to just flip open a spreadsheet and go “Ah, yes. That chest should have Item #52 in it.”

Fallout Will Never Make Sense To Me

xqha2xt668fy9yltvwm8

The Fallout franchise sure does love it some sci-fi doesn’t it?  From irradiated mutants that wander the wastes to laser guns & robots, you can find a lot of staples of science fiction.  Heck, there’s even the Mothership Zeta DLC where you are abducted by aliens and halt a planetary invasion.  There’s a lot about the Fallout universe that you have to swallow to buy into the premise of the world.  Especially the massively convoluted history about resource wars, nuclear escalation, America annexing Canada so it can fight a land war with China after China invades Alaska…  there’s a LOT of stuff going on in the story of these games. Most of which is irrelevant to the actual enjoyment of the games.  In fact, 90% of this stuff I didn’t even bother to learn until after I beat Fallout 3 years ago.  But you know what I can’t just ignore that completes breaks the entire ‘setting’ of these games for me?  That one thing that permeates every aspect of the series and drives me completely mad?

The 1950’s.

Yea. The 1950’s.  Not just that the style and visuals are rooted in the 50’s aesthetic and drawn from the futurist visions depicted at some World’s Fair expo.  But that somehow we are expected that a game set in the year 2277 hasn’t culturally advanced since the 1950’s in anything from fashion, to music, to art.  It’s just stuck there.  Oh but I hear people say, but Vry we’ve been living in a post-apocalyptic nightmare for centuries.  Culture can’t advance in that.

Um… why not?  Did people stop making music?  Did they stop painting?  Did no one want to wear a different style of dress?  We know that eventually someone developed the idea of making video games on holotapes.  So why is everything else stuck? Beyond even that point, the bombs didn’t drop until 2077.  That’s over 100 years of society being stuck in a single cultural period.  And we are talking about a society that currently must differentiate between ‘Early 90s’, ‘Mid 90s’, and ‘Late 90s’  as completely different styles of fashion, music, entertainment, and even things like slang.

The idea of any society only progressing in technology alone while every other aspect of culture being time-locked in one spot is just a baffling concept to me.  Especially since the only explanation we are given for any of this is: Transistors were never discovered.  The hell does that have to do with any of this?

I know that the Fallout universe is dear to some, but it just smacks of world building laziness.  I’m not saying you can’t do the whole 50’s culture retro-futurism thing… but give us a damn reason for it at least.  It almost feels like that movie Blast from the Past with Brendan Frazier and Christopher Walken, where a 1950s family seal themselves in a fallout shelter for forty years when they think a bomb is dropped on their house.  The difference?  That was a comedy.  You can excuse that sort of thing in a comedy.  Fallout wants to be taken seriously – roving gangs of Elvis impersonators aside.

I know probably a hundred people have probably complained about this before, but I don’t care.  It’s probably my biggest pet peeve with fictional universes in general.  It irks me when hundreds of years pass without any significant change in society.  I know that it bugs the hell out of people that it looks like Star Wars’ galaxy hasn’t changed a bit in the thousands of years between The Old Republic and the movies.  Or in fantasy settings where hundreds of years and a dozen wars can do nothing to alter the way society works.  But especially in post-industrial and sci-fi settings this is a far bigger disappointment.  That for three centuries, human forms of expression has stopped dead in its tracks.

So in the end, Ron Perlman was wrong.  It’s not war that never changes.  It’s culture.  It’s music.  It’s fashion.  It’s about human expression.  None of that ever changes in Fallout.  And that’s a far more depressing and cynical thought that any message about humanity’s ingrained desire to kill each other in my opinion.

It’s A Me! Vry the Mario Maker!

super-mario-maker-image

A few months back I picked up Super Mario Maker for my Wii U, and boy is that a fun way to kill some time.  Whether I’m designing levels or just playing through random ones that other people made, I still have a blast every time.  Well, almost every time.  I’m not exactly a huge fan of those auto-Mario levels that play themselves.  Or the musical levels that for some reason never and I mean NEVER sound like the song their supposed to be.  I get that those kind of things have an audience and I know auto-Mario is a HUGE thing in other parts of the world and the game is built around an international audience but ya know, it just never really clicked with me.  I never liked that kind of stuff in Little Big Planet either.

Anyway, I finally got around to uploading some of my more thoroughly tested levels to their online servers and I figured I’d share the level IDs on here for anyone who also enjoys some Mario Maker and wanted to try them out:

Don’t Get Phazed By the Maze!

Course ID: 71A2-0000-01AC-0388

Starting basic with a more classic feel, it slowly begins ramping up difficulties and challenging you to think in alternate ways before sending you into the maze proper.  The maze has several paths, including a easy but tricky emergency bonus exit that rewards you with a hearty compliment to your endeavors and a straight shot to the top of the pole.  Keep an eye out for hidden bonuses tucked away here and there.

Above, Below & WAY Below

Course ID: CFAA-0000-01AC-0AB2

The mentality of the ‘multiple paths’ in “Don’t Get Phazed By the Maze!” takes full force here.  There are 3 separate paths per section with ample opportunities to cross between them.  Difficult to reach paths on the ‘overworld’ are rewarded with easier paths in the ‘underworld’ areas.  There are dozens of different combinations and methods to complete this level with hidden goodies to get you from here to there along the way.  Can you find the best path?

Spooky with a Capital P Switch

Course ID: 6DB3-0000-01AC-1A9C

A short level built around a single P-Switch.  The switch can make the level easier or more rewarding by either countering enemies or opening up new paths.  Can you find the secret coin vault?

Do you have a Mario Maker level?  Share your Course ID in the comments below! I’d love to try them out.

Is It Wrong To Play What Makes You Happy?

So regular readers are probably wondering where the rest of the class storyline reviews are.  After all I teased that I was playing through the Smuggler story next and true to my word I got all the way through Chapter 3 on him.  The reviews are actually outlined and in my draft pile.  I always enjoyed the smuggler and I’m looking forward to writing those soon and then hopefully moving on to the final storyline: the Imperial Agent.  However, I’m not going to lie – It may take me a while.  See, on top of Knights of the Fallen Empire now out and enjoying that (Thinking of doing a Vry Plays after my Sim’s inevitable go bankrupt and start eating each other),  I’ve also now got Metal Gear Solid V, and Fallout 4, the new patch of Final Fantasy XIV, and oddly enough among all of those things – World of Warcraft.

It’s odd.  While I did decide to join my significant other in playing catch up through the Warlords of Draenor storyline (My take? It was nice, but the whole Alternate Universe thing lessened the impact to near pillow fight levels.  Felt like it should have just been a novel.)  and I did enjoy my brief playthrough, I haven’t honestly had a “hankering” to play the game since Mists of Pandaria.  Yet, in the wake of the recent loss of a grandparent, and the depression that followed, I found myself turning to an old comfort.  My little gnome death knight, my lawful good blood elf paladin, and even some of my low level toons.  The game didn’t feel like a tedious trudge through the tides of futility like so many times before.  It just felt like silly fun.  Kind of like picking up a Mario game after a decade and just enjoying the simple run-jump mechanics.

But despite the level of comfort I felt when beating around the skulls of kobolds as Norris Brewshatter, Dwarven Shaman Extraordinaire, I found my mind pestering me.  “Didn’t we say we were done with WoW?”  “What about those Class Reviews?”  “You have like four brand new games you haven’t finished yet.”  And the thoughts hounded me as I played, and after I had logged out, and almost everything I saw or uttered the words ‘World of Warcraft’.  I was at odds.  This game was helping me.  I was feeling better.  I was starting to enjoy things again after the funeral.  Should I abandon that for other things I should play in my diminished adulthood free time?  And why only feel this way about WoW?

Maybe part of it is that World of Warcraft carries a heavy weight with it.  It’s a name that actually means something to people outside of gaming circles.  My sister may not know what Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is, or if Star Wars: The Old Republic is a game or a comic or a cartoon, but she knows World of Warcraft.  She knows it for good and for ill.  There’s stigmas associated with that game outside of gaming, and even bigger one’s inside of gaming.  MMO gamers especially are very vocal about their opinions of what they like and dislike, and the fact that my site’s biggest draw is TOR, whose forums won’t even say ‘WoW’ but only refer to it ubiquitously as ‘That Other Game’ (Or they did, I will admit I don’t frequent the TOR forums very often anymore.)  Is that why?  I’m afraid that readers will leave my blog if they found out I was playing ‘The Other Game’?  I hope not.  My subconscious would be quite the vain thing then wouldn’t it?

Honestly, I can’t really say.  I’ve been mulling it over for days trying to figure it out but ultimately I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter.  I wrote this blog when it only had maybe 15 hits a day and most of those were Google Image Searches, I’ll still write it even if it gets back to there.  I write because I like writing it and I have all these crazy weird thoughts while playing games, watching movies, or reading comics that I just want to share with anyone who will listen… er… read.

No, I think the real thing to keep in mind with all of this is that you should do what makes you happy.  Even if others would turn away, or give you a weird look, or anything like that.  Don’t worry about it.  Just play what makes YOU happy.  Let them play what makes them happy.  The world can be cold, the night is dark, and we never really know how long we get to enjoy ourselves here on this big round madhouse.  So play games you enjoy, with people you enjoy when you can, and even without them if they want to play something else that doesn’t interest you.  Be happy.  We all deserve that much.  Games are supposed to be fun after all.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my departed grandmother, Carolyn, who I can never ever recall getting upset once in my life and of course to the ever cheery man my grandma loved to watch: Bob Ross.

Take care of yourself, and each other.

Odditorial: On the Perceived Permanence of Lore

darth_vader_noooo1

If there’s one thing we nerds enjoy, it’s canon.  Is this canonical? Is that?  Is my OTP canonical?  How does X fit into the canon?  One need not look any further than the reaction to the announcement that the Star Wars Expanded Universe being retired into the Legends label to see how much a concise and clearly stated canon can matter to people.  So there gets to be this mindset among fans of just about anything that whatever is stated to be canon is something akin to a holy text that must be viewed as complete and immutable from whatever state a fan finds it in.  And that last bit is important because what eventually sets the bar as ‘betraying’, ‘contradicting’ or ‘ignoring’ canon depends a great deal on exactly what state the canon was in when and how you first were exposed to it.

After all, while the Green Lantern Corps was introduced in 1959, the concept of the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lantern Corps like the Red Lanterns, or the Sinestro Corps, didn’t come into being until 2006, despite it beings established that these things were in existence all along but the Green Lanterns may not have been aware of them.  If you were a fan before Geoff Johns’ new interpretation of the Green Lantern universe, you might find this idea a bit on the heretical side.  After all, how could the Guardians not know/expose this info?  How come it took decades of issues before it was revealed that Parralax was a big space bug that was sealed away and they knew about it but kinda didn’t want to bring it up?  On the same hand, if you came after that or say first got interested in Green Lantern due to the Green Lantern Animated Series – then the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lanterns are just part of the universe to you. Easy peasy.

Already we can see that time and method can dictate the view of what is considered to be canon and what isn’t.  Will new Star Wars fans a decade from now when the JJ Abrams Trilogy comes to a close even think that the Legends novels were anything more than interesting What-If stories?  That the Yuuzhan Vong are nothing more than glorified fanfiction characters?  Perhaps.  But aside from fan-interpretation and viewpoints of canon, what about when canon is changed by the ones who created it?

If you want a good example of fans getting upset at a ‘violation’ of canon by the ones who write the story themselves, look no further than our good friends at Blizzard Entertainment.   Almost every expansion is met with cries of ‘That’s not what this character would do’, ‘Blizzard doesn’t care about their own canon’ or ‘This violates their own lore’, etc.  I’ve played World of Warcraft since 2006 off and on, and I’ve seen these complaints so many times I’ve lost count.  But it always comes back to this idea that what WAS should be preserved in a little box, and left to the point where it is never changed or influenced.  Heck, I remember people complaining about the difference in characterization between Warcraft III and Vanilla WoW, almost like there was some sort of inexplicable 5 year jump mentioned in first few seconds of the opening cut scene.  These characters change, the situation changes, and the world moves forward.  The Forsaken were pretty much born out of Sylvanas’ quest for revenge against the Lich King.  You can’t very well expect them to stay the same after their sworn mortal enemy is dead.

There’s also the issue of the fact that since WE are aware of all the details of the story and lore, we often will forget that the characters don’t.  A character may not know the truth of all the details, or even heard the news if its something that happened on the completely other side of the planet and thus will act according to what they know and not what WE know.  The concept of ‘metagaming’ can extend to fiction too, ya know.  So while things sometimes look like a violation of canon, it can honestly sometimes just be a matter of ‘the characters wouldn’t know that’.  Back to World of Warcraft for example, it’s stated in some places that the Eredar corrupted the Titan Sargeras into turning evil, it’s later revealed upon meeting the Draenei – an exiled faction of the Eredar – that it was actually the reverse. Sargeras had corrupted the Eredar.  Is this a retcon? Yes, but does it break canon? No.  No one who originally told the tales of Sargeras & the Eredar would have been in the position to know the facts of the tale.  They are legends and fables, passed down for generations.  Now when they meet the Draenei?  Well, heck, Velen was THERE.  He knows.  Now he’s explaining it.  Now you have the myth, and the fact.  That’s developing canon, not violating it.

Wanting a canon to stay rigid, to have nothing new enter or depart the scene and for characters to stay the same as when we first fell in love with them just is flat out bad for storytelling.  Is BioWare futzing with their own lore with TOR?  Yes.  Yes they are.  The story is moving forward, a new enemy is appearing from beyond the borders of the galaxy and using a vastly different technique of force wielding to pursue a mission of galactic conquest.  Honestly, from a personal standpoint, it’s not nearly as conflicting as say KOTOR to KOTOR2 when in the space of 5 years the entire Jedi Order was completely wiped out leaving only a few stragglers like the Exile around.  No wonder they decided to set SWTOR 295 years later. Yeesh.

Now I’m not saying there aren’t ways you can mess up canon.  Even Blizzard has admitted to messing up with mixing up established facts and they have employees devoted to entire task of keeping this stuff straight.  But there’s a difference between ‘This never before explained thing has appeared and is attacking’ or ‘This ancient prophecy we just uncovered is coming true!’ and things like ‘Superman was never from Krypton, he’s from Snorglack-VII and always has been. Ignore what we said earlier.’  (And heck there are even acceptable ways to do that with continuity reboots, and elaborate explanations, that might reek of B.S. aren’t technically violating canon.)  There are times when you just screw up and forget that you’ve already established some detail, and there are times you introduce retcons that will devastatingly run in contrast to how a character is viewed (Did you Batman ALWAYS hated rock music because his Dad told him it was bad the night they died?) but there is also just the idea that you are expanding the story and the universe.

As fans we sometimes have the tendency to get a bit zealous with our devotion to what we know.  We like the permanence of the whole thing.  It feels good.  But that’s not necessarily what’s best for the story.  For a story to grow, canon must be altered and expanded.  Maybe there were 9 planets, but due to later revelations there are now 8 (or like 25).  Canon must always be somewhat flexible in order for things to move forward.  And I think we as fans need to be flexible with it.

Thanks for reading.

%d bloggers like this: